The quintessential argument
Fisherman on the Itchen.
The quintessential argument often occurs between those who are ruthlessly determined to take something and those who are quietly determined to defend their rights to it. Yesterday Aly arrived to help again in the garden, and shared a story that embodied this argument for it pitted the bully landowner against the landless fisherman, namely himself. Aly has almost no teeth, and speaks rapidly, and I followed the story as closely as I could.
One of our tasks was to tame a patch of nettles so we could do some planting. You recall Hotspur's advice - out of this nettle, danger, we grasp this flower, safety. The line applies in spades to Aly's story of defiance in defence of his and our ancient rights.
By the way, like many Brits, nettles have travelled and can now be found worldwide. They produce a sting that is fierce and strangely hot and cold - hot from the sting and cold from the numbing that follows. But, here's the thing, the sting doesn't last long. That's important to Shakespeare's line and Aly's story. Plus, according to reports online, nettles are full of valuable medicinal and healing properties. Still, if you want to plant, you have to remove them.
Strengthened by cups of hot, sweet tea, we headed toward the nettles, and Aly told me about his battle.
One day Aly was fishing with his 'nobble' on a local bridge. I think his nobble was his young nephew, but I didn't like to interrupt mid-stream, as it were, so I didn't ask him to explain. They were having a good day's fishing when Aly noticed a man photographing them and their catch. Not well pleased, he asked the man why he was taking their image, and was told that he and his nobble were taking the man's fish and he was going to report them.
I am not taking your fish, Aly told him. I am fishing from a public bridge and the fish that swim in the waters below the bridge are anyone's to take.
And he refused to leave. He was defending his and our common rights to forests and rivers and riverbanks, parks and airwaves. They are all part of our Inheritance, and - brief station break - they are part of our book, Share the Inheritance.
When a quarrel arises between a landowner and the landless, the landless usually back off. Aly stuck his hand in the nettle, danger, and insisted on his rights. The landowner, whose land lay close by, threatened to call the police. Aly's young nobble was nervous, but Aly stood his bridge. Go ahead, he said to the landowner, and went back to fishing. (The Itchen is famous for trout.)
Half an hour passed, and the police arrived in all their glory. Aly asserted the concept of public access to fishing from a public bridge.
The landowner then claimed the fish were migratory, and should not be taken. If they are migratory, Aly observed, they cannot be yours. This logic struck the police with especial force.
The police decamped, and Aly and his nobble had a good day's fishing. Out of this nettle, danger, we grasp this flower, safety! And the sting doesn't last.
We hope and believe you will have a good day when you buy and read Share the Inheritance.
Who am I if I cannot say what I think?
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